- Tower Hamlets
The only gay pub in Lewisham, Two8Six, was closed down last week as the building’s new owners broke in and changed the locks.
The Lewisham high street pub was closed down by property management companies Mandoza and Golfrate, which took over ownership of the building in June.
It appears the landlord wanted to convert the flats above, which staff live in, into private residential flats, and was also demanding outstanding rent. The publican, Steve Thompson said he was only given 24 hours notice of the eviction.
He claims that upon the sale of the pub to Golfrate a promise was made for the pub not to be shut down, however when he arrived at its address on October 12 shutters had been placed all over the front windows.
EastLondonLines tried to contact management at Golfrate for a comment but they did not respond.
Supporters of the pub have organised a meeting on October 26 at Lewisham Civic Centre to discuss what steps can be taken for the pub to remain open.
A supporting Facebook group has also been set up, which seeks to speak to Hussein Aziz, the new landlord to reconsider his decision.
The eviction happened, according to Thompson’s facebook page, while he was at the landlord’s office in Wimbledon, re-negotiating the terms of the closure.
Thompson told news site News Shopper: “Although my solicitor has advised me that they were not entitled to break in and change the locks, without being able to trade I can’t afford the thousands of pounds necessary to take them to the High Court and so I may be forced to declare myself bankrupt.”
He added on his facebook page: “I have always only wanted three things out of running TWO8SIX; to make a living, to look after the staff team AND to provide somewhere safe and fun for the local gay community and their friends to meet and party.
“Not only are the pub’s customers, largely from the gay community, affected by this decision, so are the staff members, many of whom were live-in employees. They were unlawfully evicted from their homes,” he said.
The “straight friendly” pub had been serving the LGBT community since 1960.
An employee from local salon “From the Root” said the closure was a “real shame” since it was not the first business to be shut down in the area recently, which was a worry for many local employers.
Sean Ash, a frequent customer, said on Facebook: “I believe that Two8Six has opened up my eyes and helped me to overcome prejudices I may have even had.”
Another regular, Gay Mitchell commented: “After being stabbed 8 years ago in a homophobic attack on Lewisham High Street I had the support from the LGBT community based through Two8Six. Without this support I would have found it difficult to enter Lewisham again and rebuild my life.”
Others said the closure was a direct attack on the LGBT community. A comment on News Shopper said: “this is not just a financial issue, with this being the only pub in the area regularly used by gay men and women there is more than a hint of discrimination in the new owners actions.”
Visit the Facebook support page here.
By Athena Stylli, Candy Hung, Michael Ellery